Seven to Save: 2008

The 2008 Seven to Save Endangered Properties list draws attention to the plight of New York’s industrial heritage, the lack of master preservation planning documents, and the need to consider historic preservation in the face of development pressure. These seven valued historic resources are in danger of disappearing because of insufficient funding and financial incentives, insensitive public policies, general neglect, disinvestment, and in some cases, demolition.

The Near Westside Historic Disrict | Elmira, Chemung County

Landmark status: State/National Registers

Threat: Deterioration; lack of necessary financial tools to encourage rehabilitation and redevelopment

Although New York State established a rehabilitation tax credit program in 2006, the current program provides incentives that restrict the residential program to ultra-distressed census tracts so that very little historic housing qualifies for its provisions. At present, very few cities—notably Albany, Newburgh, Rochester and Buffalo—are positioned to benefit from this program. The City of Elmira’s Near Westside Historic District offers the League an opportunity to once again feature a significant State and National Register listed neighborhood as representative of the need for an enhanced residential rehabilitation tax credit program. The Near Westside has 352 residential buildings listed in the State and National Registers. Of these, only 56 qualify for the existing rehabilitation tax credit program. The Preservation League’s proposed enhancements would raise the number of qualified buildings to 239 in the Near Westside neighborhood.

Objectives: The Preservation League advocates changes to the present residential rehabilitation tax credit program to make it a more meaningful tool to encourage statewide reinvestment in historic housing stock, increase home ownership and encourage greater neighborhood stability, by using Elmira as a powerful example.

Columbus Park-Prospect Hill Neighborhood | Buffalo, Erie County

Landmark status: State and National Register Eligible

Threat: Demolition; unsympathetic development due to proposed new bridge and plaza expansion project for the Peace Bridge

Efforts to improve and expand the operations of the Peace Bridge and its plaza has been underway for about a decade. The National Register-eligible Peace Bridge links Ontario, Canada to Buffalo, New York at the Front Park, Columbus Park and Prospect Hill neighborhoods, areas that benefited from the visionary and beautiful landscape designs of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. Front and Columbus parks were designed between 1868 and 1876 as part of an ambitious citywide plan. A residential boom soon followed and today the area boasts several State and National Register listed and eligible historic districts as well and individual landmarks. Today the area serves as the major gateway to Buffalo and provides international visitors with a first impression of the United States.

However, as plans for an expanded Peace Bridge Plaza develop, driven largely by significant truck traffic and international border crossing issues, more of the immediate neighborhood has been at risk. Present plans call for the demolition of some 88 or more homes with at least 128 dwelling units lost. In addition, about two dozen businesses could be removed. Considerable new construction including an expanded toll plaza, a multi-story parking garage, a new duty free shop, new highway ramps and larger surface parking lots would dominate one of Buffalo’s stable historic neighborhoods and remove prospects for reuniting the area to the Niagara River waterfront.

Objectives: The Preservation League, working with area preservation and neighborhood groups, calls for a full evaluation of direct, indirect and cumulative impacts to the historic properties and landscapes of the neighborhoods of the Peace Bridge Expansion Project area. While improvements to truck and automobile travel and border crossing issues are important, Buffalo and the region would benefit from transportation plans that recognize and better protect historic resources and a residential neighborhood that is largely intact and exhibits sustained reinvestment relative to other parts of the city.

Holy Trinity Monastery | Herkimer County

Landmark status: State and National Register

Threat: Unsympathetic development in proximity of Monastery; loss of rural character due to proposed large scale wind turbine project

The proposed site of the Jordanville Wind project affects two nationally significant cultural landmarks; the Glimmerglass Historic District and the Mohawk Valley/Erie Canal National Heritage Corridor. As a result of impact concerns, the original project of 68 turbines was reduced to 49 by the State’s Public Service Commission in August 2007. However, that decision also provided project approval. In its present form this project would have negative impacts on the Holy Trinity Monastery near Jordanville hamlet.

The campus of the Holy Trinity Monastery, Cathedral and Seminary encompasses 750 acres of agricultural and scenic lands with multiple buildings and structures including three cemeteries, the 1948 Byzantine style Cathedral and a later belltower. Located within a rural agricultural and woodland landscape on a high plain, the Monastery, founded in 1928 as a refuge for religious freedom, serves as a world-renowned center of the Russian Orthodox faith. From the Monastery complex there are extensive panoramic views and spiritual places of prayer. Of particular significance to this denomination are the views to the east, associated with liturgical practices.

Objectives: Working with area stakeholders, the Preservation League also calls for statewide siting guidelines for industrial scale wind energy projects such as the one near Jordanville. Such guidelines would serve property owners, municipal officials, preservation and environmental groups and developers by alerting all concerned parties to the historic, cultural and scenic resources of a potential project site at the earliest opportunity.

UPDATE: On June 23, 2011, the Holy Trinity Monastery was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The resource includes 750 acres and includes 56 contributing resources.

Jones Beach State Park | Nassau County

Landmark status: State and National Registers

Threat: Inappropriate alterations, integrity loss

Jones Beach State Park, conceived by and created under Robert Moses in the 1920s, has experienced incremental degradation of its historic structures and original plan through ongoing inappropriate interventions and misguided maintenance procedures. Today, Jones Beach also faces a significant landscape alteration with a proposed Trump on the Ocean catering facility on the main mall.

At its time of construction, Jones Beach became a national model of an ideal public recreational facility. Robert Moses developed Jones Beach as part of a larger system of public parks on Long Island, that would connect to New York City and provide outdoor recreational space to residents of New York City. Jones Beach, the flagship of New York State Parks on Long Island, is one of the state’s best-attended facilities and provides an important and necessary venue for public recreation. The extensive and integrated park system on Long Island led to the creation of the Long Island State Park Commission and New York Council of Parks, agencies which served as models for similar public park initiatives around the country.

Objectives: The Preservation League of New York State and the Society for the Preservation of Long Island Antiquities call for a Preservation Master Plan of Jones Beach State Park and designation of the site as a State Historic Park (as at Caumsett State Historic Park and Planting Fields Arboretum State Historic Park), to fully draw on the services of the Bureau of Historic Sites. Jones Beach State Park highlights the need for significant capital reinvestment in the NYS Park System.

Farley Post Office | Manhattan, New York County

Landmark status: Local, State/National Registers

Threat: potential inappropriate, unsympathetic design; loss of architectural integrity

While reflecting the consensus opinion that there is a need for a new Pennsylvania Station (named Moynihan Station after its initial champion), preservation and planning advocates want to protect the public’s interest as private corporations start to more heavily influence the design of Moynihan Station around a new Madison Square Garden.

The James Farley Post Office complex was designed by McKim, Mead and White in two stages.The first building, completed in 1913 and facing Eighth Avenue, was designed to complement Pennsylvania Station, the McKim, Mead and White masterpiece across the street. This building, known as the Farley Post Office, has a monumental Corinthian colonnade at the top of a grand staircase with the famous line: “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from swift completion of their appointed rounds.”

The Annex extension of the Farley Post Office, also designed by McKim, Mead and White, was built from 1932-1934. The architects designed the Farley Post Office to be seen from all four elevations, applied pilasters on the 31st and 33rd Street elevations, as well as on the Ninth Avenue façade, echo the colonnade at Eighth Avenue. Designed and continuously used as a post office since its completion, this building retains a great deal of interior details.

Objectives: New York City’s rezoning of Hudson Yards (8th to 11th Avenues and 30th to 41st Streets) in 2005 allowed for greatly increased development capacity on the site of the Farley Post Office, Penn Station, and surrounding blocks. The current plan for the Farley Post Office redevelopment includes relocating Madison Square Garden to the Annex space and removing some of the intact interior spaces of the Farley Post Office, such as the original trusses and western courtyard wall. Following Metro-North’s example at Grand Central Station, the preservation community would like the Moynihan Station Development Corporation, as part of the Empire State Development Corporation, to turn to the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission for a voluntary hearing in the public interest. This project needs public oversight and careful planning.

Saratoga Race Course | Saratoga County

Landmark status: Local, State/National Registers

Threat: Potential unsympathetic modernization; impact of change in ownership unclear

The Saratoga Race Course, the oldest continuously-operating thoroughbred racetrack in the country (1863 1st organized Thoroughbred race), has a wealth of Victorian structures, including the turreted grandstand, and many horse barns dating from 1864. The Race Course holds world-famous stakes races, including the annual Travers stakes since 1864. Many significant families have connections with the Saratoga Race Course, such as the Vanderbilts, Whitneys, and Astors. The Race Course includes 350 acres, 3 tracks, and over 200 structures. Over the years, new buildings have been designed to carefully complement existing structures.

After 50 years under the same management, control of the facilities may change hands, leading to uncertainty over the future of the Race Course’s historic buildings and setting. The essential character of the Saratoga Race Course lays in the composite of historic buildings, landscape, and traditions. Without detailed and sensitive design guidelines and a comprehensive plan, this character is threatened with incremental degradation. The Churchill Downs modernization and expansion serves as a warning of what can happen to an architectural icon without safeguards in place.

Objectives: The Preservation League joins the Saratoga Springs Preservation Foundation in calling for a comprehensive plan and design guidelines that will thoughtfully guide any changes to the historic Race Course as part of a four-pronged approach:

Inventory – need for complete, updated historic resources inventory that includes building condition;

Protection – include all buildings and landscape features of the Saratoga Race Course into the local Union Avenue Historic District;

Planning – comprehensive facilities management plan with design guidelines; and

Oversight with local representation – establish a formal oversight process including state and municipal representatives.

The Former Glenwood Power Plant | Yonkers, Westchester County

Landmark status: None although local commission (a CLG) recommended local designation to City Council in 2005

Threat: Reuse ideas have threatened architectural integrity; partial demolition; no landmark protection

The Yonkers Power Station, built as part of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad in 1906, stands as a monument to early 20th-century engineering and the New York Central electrification that led to the suburban growth of Westchester County. The architects of the Yonkers Power Station, Charles Reed and Allen Stem, also designed Grand Central Terminal with Warren and Wetmore. Another Reed and Stem Power Station at Port Morris on the Harlem River Rail line was demolished in the mid-20th century. The New York Central System, once known as “The Greatest Highway in the World,” reached up to Montreal and Ottawa and as far west as St. Louis. The electrification of this railway made it one of only two mainline railroads (the other was the Long Island Railroad) known to have used third-rail electrification.

The City of Yonkers Landmarks Preservation Board unanimously recommended this building for local designation in 2005 but the Yonkers City Council has not acted on the proposed landmark designation. The building’s owner is actively marketing the site for redevelopment while the building remains unprotected.

As waterfront power plants affiliated with early 20th-century rail electrification grow scarce, the need for respectful reuse plans for the abandoned Yonkers Power Station (also known as the Glenwood Power Station) increases. An icon on the Hudson River waterfront, the Yonkers Power Station is an inspiring remnant of our industrial and transportation heritage. The Preservation League urges that local landmark designation move forward and pledges to work with stakeholders on reuse plans that respect the building’s industrial character and architectural and engineering integrity.

Seven to SavePLNYS Staff